The Exercise of Free Will

I wonder if Pat Robertson or James Dobson or any of the other leaders in the radical religious right movement saw the story from the Associated Press a while back about the study of children raised by gay mothers. Although admittedly only a small number of women were studied, the results support other studies along the same lines. The findings of Susan Golombok, a professor of psychology at City University in London, found that children raised by lesbian mothers had no greater statistical chance of being gay adults than those raised by heterosexual parents. So much for the argument that the child's sexual identity is threatened by the parent's homosexuality.

Unfortunately the study won't stop prejudice against homosexuals. In the views of the religious right, homosexuality should be banned because it is contrary to God's laws. Yet if this were to happen, it would breach the separation of church and state and would undoubtedly be declared unconstitutional. So the religious right must find other ways to convince people that homosexuality should be outlawed. Saying the child's sexual identity was endangered was one of those ways despite the fact that other studies had already reported that gay/lesbian parents had the same statistical chance of having a gay/lesbian child as heterosexual parents.

Another strategy the religious right is using is to say that homosexuality is rampantly spreading the AIDS virus. Yet statistically, homosexuals account for only ten percent of the population. Given the religious rights feelings towards homosexuals, I'd think they'd want to promote the lifestyle and let the "problem" take care of itself, so to speak. Besides, how is it that homosexuals are causing heterosexuals to contract the virus at an increasingly alarming rate? Some of it is undoubtedly due to IV drug usage. And some from sexual involvement with someone who was infected and may or may not have known about it. But it doesn't account for all of it. Some of those upstanding citizens who decry homosexuality have either had homosexual encounters in the past, involvement with a prostitute or an affair with someone who was infected. Not too upstanding and rather hypocritical, don't you think?

The simple fact of the matter is that we don't have a right to tell someone else how they should be living their life— who they can or cannot love. The religious right argues that we have an obligation to stop "immoral" behavior. Yet reading the very first chapter of Genesis will show that isn't so. When Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, her disobedience of God was the first act of "immorality". Yet God allowed her to disobey him. Are we supposed to assume from the stance of the religious right that God didn't have the power to stop Eve? Or that he didn't know what she had done? God has indeed given us laws to follow. But he has given us something else too— free will. Without free will we are nothing more than puppets and God the puppet-master. If such were the case, we could not be held responsible for our actions since we are only doing, saying and thinking what God is telling us to do, say or think. But we are responsible. It is our choice whether or not we will follow God's laws.

And here is where the religious right oversteps its bounds. There is nothing wrong with teaching someone about the laws that God gave us (I'm not even going to get into which God). But when laws are written that forbid the exercise of free will, the religious right is going where even God did not go. If their argument that only God can give life so only God can take it away is to be valid, the same must go for free will. Only God gave us free will— only he can take it away. Yes, I know that all laws in some way prevent the use of free will. No, I'm not promoting anarchy. When large numbers of people live together with different goals, beliefs and ideals, conflict will inevitably arise. (Unless, of course, everyone lives by the Golden Rule.) Until such time as all men respect the rights of all other men, laws will be necessary in order for society to function. These laws are practical and common sense laws for the most part— at least the ones regarding criminal law. Most are aimed at protecting our rights rather than limiting another's free will. However, laws regulating abortion, homosexuality and other morality issues go too far.

For one thing, the notion that the soul enters the body at conception (creating "life") is one based purely on religion. It is also hypocritical, violating a divine law of the very God they claim upholds their right to make such criminal laws. It is judgmental, assuming that every woman who seeks to have an abortion is promiscuous, easy, selfish, drug addicted and often poor or a minority. (I wonder if Congress would still be so intent on passing welfare reform if all the white girls who had abortions were forced to have their babies and went on welfare to support them? Or better yet, if men had babies...)

With regards to homosexuality, God is love and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him. It doesn't say "heterosexual" love anywhere. Passages are often misquoted in the Bible— like the one that forbids men to lie with men as with women. The Bible makes a distinction between sex (which is usually referred to as "lying with") and making love (often referred to as "coming into" or "knowing"). The above passage does appear to disallow sex between two men but not making love. It doesn't even mention women having sex with other women or making love with other women. And finally, the entire premise of judging someone or their lifestyle is contrary to the teachings of the Jesus, who said "Judge not lest ye be judged."

I'm sure there are those who feel that judging is exactly what I'm doing with regards to the religious right. Yet I'm not trying to stop them from saying what they're saying. I'm simply pointing out the inconsistencies in their arguments and the things they don't say with regards to their justifications for their actions. You must now use your free will to determine whether there is any validity to what I'm saying.

When you get right down to it, morality is completely subjective and we have no right to dictate another's morality. The line between protecting our rights and dictating morality for others is a fine one and we must be ever vigilant not to cross it. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1803, "It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others." In other words, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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